“We are thrilled to announce the latest headliner for Tomorrowland…Albert Einstein.”
Believe it or not, if the man behind the theory of relativity was alive today, that ridiculous music festival announcement might have been a reality.
A quote attributed to Einstein in 1929 confirms that the most influential physicist of all time could have followed a very different career path: that of a musician. It was the height of the “Roaring Twenties”, a period that saw jazz and dance music permeate Western culture.
“If I weren’t a physicist, I’d probably be a musician,” Einstein said at the time. “I often think about music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music.”
Einstein was a friend of legendary inventor Leon Theremin, who developed the theremin, one of the very first electronic musical instruments. Theremin demonstrated his instrument for Einstein in Berlin in 1927, a year before patenting the device.
Einstein, who was curious about how the theremin worked, attended various concerts and even tried to play it, according to the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The instrument works by generating electromagnetic fields around two antennae: one manipulating pitch and the other controlling volume.
In an interview conducted in France in 1989, Theremin, who was 93 at the time, opened up about Einstein’s unique perspective on music production.
“There was a man who was interested in the color of music, the connection between light and music, and that was Einstein,” he said.
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“Einstein was more interested in the connection between music and geometric figures: not only color, but especially triangles, hexagons, heptagons, different types of geometric figures,” Theremin added.
What’s the one thing babies and electronic music producers have in common, other than whining now and then? (Looking at you, EDM Twitter). They play with geometric shapes.
Serum, VolumeShaper and PORTAL are just three programs that exist in an immeasurable sea of products and plugins that allow electronic music artists to generate audio by manipulating waveforms. There is even software that allows producers to implement an oscilloscope, a digital instrument that draws a complex graph of an electrical signal.
These visual representations are essential for wavetable morphing, granular synthesis, and other advanced production techniques. It’s mind-boggling to think what Einstein could do with these tools at his disposal.
But we’ll never know unless there’s a wild technological breakthrough, perhaps with artificial intelligence. Many have tried to mimic his consciousness, like this creepy “AI-powered digital human” version of the Nobel laureate.
If some things had turned out differently for the musically inclined Einstein in Germany in the late 1800s, it seems plausible that his life would have changed dramatically. And the rest of us, for that matter, whose material lives are dictated by the laws of physics.
We can’t believe it’s been over a hundred years since he came up with his theory of relativity. It’s like it was yesterday.